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Monthly Masters DiscussionMonthly Masters' Discussion - March 2019 - Friedrich's "Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog"

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minniev
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Monthly Masters' Discussion - March 2019 - Friedrich's "Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog"

Post by minniev » Fri Mar 01, 2019 1:58 am

Introduction

This month we will look at “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog”, a painting by 19th Century German artist Caspar David Friedrich. Friedrich is categorized as a Romantic landscape painter, and is generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He is best known for allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic or megalithic ruins. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world. Friedrich's paintings characteristically set a human presence amid expansive landscapes, reducing the figures to a scale that, according to the art historian Christopher John Murray, directs "the viewer's gaze towards their metaphysical dimension". 

Many of the figures that we see in Friedrich’s paintings are observers to a scene, shown in silhouette, or from behind, without distinguishable facial features. “Wanderer” is one of his most famous paintings, and fits into this particular convention of his. Please review some of the materials linked below for more information about Friedrich’s work, more examples from his legacy, and interesting analysis this particular painting. Then, from your perspective, share your thoughts. Here are some questions to keep in mind as you consider this artwork.


Questions To Guide Your Thinking:

1. What do you think of the composition, especially the placement of the human figure? Explain your thoughts.
2. How would you describe the color palette? How does the color palette affect the mood and message of the painting? What choices about color palette do you make as a photographer? Do you see parallels in the current interest in color grading of photographs? Is color grading something you do or have tried?
3. What is the subject of this painting? Does the painting tell a story? if so, what story do you see here?
4. What is the impact, positive or negative, of placing the figure with his back turned? Would the image be more or less effective if the viewer could see the man’s face? Would the lack of eye contact/facial features work differently if this were a photograph? Why or why not?
5. Have you taken photographs/created images with the human subject turned away from view? How would you summarize your intent when choosing compositions like this? If you’re willing, please share an image that you feel may have some connection to this approach (human figure observing something but not interacting with the photographer), and share your intent.

LInks for Study:
https://www.theartstory.org/artist-frie ... .htm#pnt_5
https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-edi ... ssion=true
http://www.artnet.com/artists/caspar-david-friedrich/
https://www.wikiart.org/en/caspar-david-friedrich
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ca ... -Friedrich
http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/art ... 1774-1840/
https://www.artble.com/artists/caspar_david_friedrich
https://youtu.be/QJEwyARMIXI
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"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by Psjunkie » Fri Mar 01, 2019 4:11 am

While I have been told by some there is little connection of subject without faces I totally disagree...I see what I see and snap the shutter accordingly....I feel shots from behind just as impactful for me as from any other view.
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20170813FGS_3197-Beach_Girls.jpg
20170811FGS_3108_Gone_Surfing.jpg
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20170815FGS_3303-Beach_Bums.jpg

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Post by PietFrancke » Fri Mar 01, 2019 4:27 pm

I will post more thoughts on this one, but regarding 4) back or front - looking at the lead image and Frank's work I am struck by the idea that if we see the back, we are sharing the Journey, the Experience, the Trial, the Event, man In his landscape. If we see the front, the subject changes from the Experience into the Who (the person becomes the more complete subject).

So I am thinking, from a composition point of view, if we shoot the back, we must make sure that the Experience in fact Does become the subject - otherwise you just have a less interesting subject (man with back turned)

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Post by minniev » Fri Mar 01, 2019 11:49 pm

Psjunkie wrote:
Fri Mar 01, 2019 4:11 am
While I have been told by some there is little connection of subject without faces I totally disagree...I see what I see and snap the shutter accordingly....I feel shots from behind just as impactful for me as from any other view.
Thanks for sharing these Frank. I love your beach backshots. The second one in this series is a wonderful portrait with much emotional impact.
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by minniev » Fri Mar 01, 2019 11:51 pm

PietFrancke wrote:
Fri Mar 01, 2019 4:27 pm
I will post more thoughts on this one, but regarding 4) back or front - looking at the lead image and Frank's work I am struck by the idea that if we see the back, we are sharing the Journey, the Experience, the Trial, the Event, man In his landscape. If we see the front, the subject changes from the Experience into the Who (the person becomes the more complete subject).

So I am thinking, from a composition point of view, if we shoot the back, we must make sure that the Experience in fact Does become the subject - otherwise you just have a less interesting subject (man with back turned)
Oh please do return with more thoughts. And I fully agree with you that if we could see the man’s face, the story would be about him. As it is rendered, the story is about the experience, the view we share with him, our relationship to the natural world. I think Frank’s second shot is a masterful photographic example of that “Experience as Subject” concept. Tell us more...
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by PietFrancke » Sat Mar 02, 2019 4:10 am

his back is to us
he becomes EveryMan
we see what he sees

he leads from the front
and we will go where he goes
and we become him

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